Improved palm tree seedlings will be introduced to replace the wild varieties under the palm oil value chain programme of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). Dr Dickson Okolo, the team leader and Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, disclosed this in Abuja.
Okolo said: “We are meeting with the states. Any state that accepts the removal of one wild palm tree will be given two improved seedlings.”
According to him, about 2.1 million hectares of palms trees are in the forest and are not productive. The wild palms trees are not improved varieties; we are working on replacing them with the improved varieties.’’
He, however, said that the wild palms trees would be phased out only after three years, when it is expected that the improved seedlings would have started bearing fruits. Okolo expressed regret that Nigeria imports nearly 300,000 tonnes of palm oil every year to meet the nation’s local needs.
“If we have the need for palm oil, we should produce. That is what other countries do. It is demand that drives supply. It is unhealthy for us to import palm oil; we need to go back and start planting.’’
He said that Nigeria may never develop, if it continued to import palm oil. Under the ATA, Okolo said that a total of 240, 000 hectares would be added to the existing hectares of palm trees from 2012 to 2015, to increase the country’s palm oil production. “What we have currently is 350,000 hectares; we are raising nine million improved seedlings to be planted on 60,000 hectares in 2013.
“By 2014, we would be planting 90,000 hectares which would involve about raising of 13.5 million palm tree seedlings and after that, we will also do another 90,000 hectares. ” The team leader said that under the ATA, farmers will receive technical assistance as well as provided with oil millers, nut crackers and kernel crushers in the next three months.